Former Nigeria women’s coach Ismaila Mabo has come out in favour of footballers moving to China.
Mabo, who took the Super Falcons to the quarter-finals of the 1999 Women’s World Cup, was responding to comments made by men’s national team captain John Obi Mikel last week.
Mikel, who has left the Chinese Super League’s Tianjin Teda for English Championship side Middlesbrough in the January transfer window, had warned against young footballers moving to China but Mabo thoroughly recommends it.
“If Mikel Obi is referring to both male and female footballers, then his advice is wrong because China is one of the best football playing nations for women,” Mabo told Lagos-based newspaper The Guardian.
He reminisced about the 1999 Women’s World Cup in the USA where China’s Steel Roses were a penalty shoot-out win from beating the hosts in the final.
“In 1999, I led the Falcons to the World Cup, and China actually did very well by reaching the final. They played goalless draw against USA, but lost 5-4 on penalty in the final,” he said.
“I believe that going to China is not a waste of time for our girls. They will equally get richer by playing in the Chinese league. But I won’t advise our male players to go there because male football is not strong in China. It is like the situation in USA, where their women have emerged world champions, and their male team is still struggling to find their bearings at the Fifa World Cup.”
Several of the Nigerian women’s team have already made the move to China.
Three-time CAF Women’s Player of the Year and former BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year Asisat Oshoala has spent the last three seasons at Dalian Quanjian, finishing top scorer in the Chinese Women’s Super League in 2017.
Oshoala is currently on loan at Barcelona from the Chinese club ahead of the Women’s World Cup in France this summer.
Her fellow Super Falcons Ebi Onome and Uchechi Sunday are both at Chinese clubs with Sunday helping Meizhou Huijun to CWSL promotion last season.
Fransisca Ordega is the latest to arrive, having joined Shanghai WFC.
Ordega was part of Nigeria’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations winners last year and one of the finalists for the CAF Women’s Player of the Year award.
It’s not just Nigerian footballers either. Cameroon’s Gaelle Enganamouit played alongside Oshoala at Dalian and Malawi’s Tabitha Chawinga will be joined by the league’s first South Africans.
Thembi Kgatalana, who beat Sunday and Oshoala to be named CAF Player of the Year, and Banyana Banyana teammate Linda Motlhalo, have signed for Beijing BG from Houston Dash.
The South African pair will be expected to replace Spain’s record scorer Veronica Boquete who has joined Utah Royals.
Boquete has a stadium named after her in her hometown of Santiago de Compostela, proof if it were needed that the Chinese Women’s Super League has seen some of the best players in the world in recent years.
Brazil strikers Byanca and Cristiane, former PSG playmaker Shirley Cruz and Argentina forward Sole Jaimes, now at Uefa Champions League winners Olympique Lyonnais, have all called the CWSL home.
Those world class names also include one of their own. Wang Shuang has shone for Paris Saint-Germain since joining them from Dalian Quanjian last August.
Wang is the poster girl for the Steel Roses as they look to go one better than 20 years ago at the Women’s World Cup in France this summer but it won’t be easy as they have been drawn against Spain, Germany and South Africa.
It’s sure that several of the World Cup stars will be on show in China when the CWSL returns for its 2019 season after the tournament finishes in July.
Even more will follow in the coming years now Chinese Super League clubs are to introduce women’s teams, after new rules brought in before the start of this CSL season.
The CFA regulations were introduced to support the development of the women’s game. Teams need to be established by 2020 and that means more opportunities for foreign footballers.